Arraignments begin in New England’s largest animal cruelty case

WESTPORT, MA (WHDH) - Dozens of defendants were called to court Tuesday to answer to charges in connection with the largest animal cruelty case in New England history.

Holding signs and photos of the alleged animal abuse at a Westport farm, advocates showed up to see those responsible face a judge.

“Their spirits were broken. They were muddy, dirty, in pain and suffering, and people just walked by them,” Jodi Greenleaf said.

The first of the 26 farm tenants faced a Bristol County judge. Some needed Portuguese interpreters, but all of them pleaded not guilty to the horrifying charges against them. The farm’s owner will also be arraigned this week.

The animal cruelty charges stem from last summer, when authorities found more than 1,400 animals in distress on the 70-acre farm. Court documents say the animals were living in overcrowded, overheated, and dangerous conditions without proper food or water.

Sick and injured cows, horses, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, rabbits, dogs and cats were found on the farm. Documents say that some had been living in such deep manure that their hooves had rotted off.

An attorney representing the defendants argued that not all the animals on the farm were in bad shape.

“The statute that they’re charged under is very broad. It covers everything from what you would expect to see as far as abuse, all the way up to the conditions the animals were housed in,” Ken Fredette said.

Advocates called Fredette’s remarks nothing more than a poor excuse.

“Some cases were worse than others, but animal abuse is animal abuse,” Greenleaf said.

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